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Arch Neurol. 2003 Jun;60(6):884-8.

Presenilin 1 mutation in an african american family presenting with atypical Alzheimer dementia.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, USA.



Alzheimer disease (AD) is characterized by memory and visuospatial deficits with relative sparing of personality. Mutations in 3 genes (presenilin 1 and 2 and amyloid precursor protein) are associated with presenile AD. Presenilin 1 gene mutations have not been described in African Americans.


We studied an African American family with autosomal dominant rapidly progressive dementia and psychosis occurring early in the fifth decade of life. We performed neurologic evaluations, psychometrics, and neuroimaging. We sequenced the amyloid precursor protein gene, presenilin 1 and 2, and tau in affected and unaffected family members. One patient underwent a brain biopsy and subsequent autopsy.


Personality change, auditory and visual hallucinations, delusions, memory impairment, word-finding difficulties, and subsequent rigidity, dystonia, myoclonus, and mutism developed in 2 brothers. Neuropsychometric testing in one was consistent with frontotemporal dementia or atypical AD. Neuroimaging studies showed diffuse cortical involvement. A clinical diagnosis of familial non-Alzheimer dementia was made. However, results of temporal lobe biopsy in one revealed amyloid neuritic plaques, and autopsy results confirmed the diagnosis of AD. Gene sequencing revealed a presenilin 1 point mutation (M139V) cosegregating with the disease. A tau polymorphism in exon 7 (A178T) was found in an affected brother and unaffected relatives.


We report the first documented presenilin mutation in African American patients presenting with early personality change, psychosis, and memory loss with preserved praxis. The M139V mutation can present differently between kindreds, with some features suggestive of a frontal lobe syndrome. The M139V mutation can lead to atypical AD, and genetic background may have a role in determining the phenotype of genetically defined AD.

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